Camera System Helps to Eliminate the Guesswork

McVehil Plumbing counts on RIDGID SeeSnake inspection cameras for reliable intel about what is happening underground.

Camera System Helps to Eliminate the Guesswork

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Anthony Pacilla recalls a service call at a college where water was surfacing through an 8-inch slab and carpeting in a basement. The source problem was a mystery to all the plumbing firms that preceded Pacilla.

“They either didn’t have the right equipment or they dug up the wet spot and couldn’t find any piping,” says Pacilla, vice president at McVehil Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning in Washington, Pennsylvania.

But Pacilla went to work with one of his go-to tools, a RIDGID SeeSnake inspection camera, and was able to nail down the issue.

“We put the SeeSnake down each and every storm drain, abandoned drain, building drain, sewer main, etc. and were able to provide a detailed color-coded map of where everything went,” he says. “We even used the same color coordination with tape on the floor to explain what went where. Once we were all on the same page and had the lines mapped out, we dug up a different spot than previous companies had and found an old, abandoned grease trap that must have been overlooked when they remodeled the building in the mid-1900s. The mapping, video proof, clarity and accuracy won us the account and gave us a rock-solid reputation with management.”


That’s just one example of the consistent success stories Pacilla and his team have had over the more than a decade that they’ve used RIDGID SeeSnake inspection tools.

McVehil Plumbing has a lengthy history, originally founded in the 1870s, and today provides residential and commercial plumbing, heating and air conditioning services to the Greater Pittsburgh Region and in the state of West Virginia.

“We first started using the RIDGID SeeSnake because the older camera system we had was outdated,” Pacilla says.  “It had a black and white screen. It was very difficult to make out what was what and the location equipment wasn’t accurate. At the time that seemed to be par for the course for the inspection camera industry.

“We were itching to get something new because we do a lot of commercial dig-up and repairs where the location equipment needs to be very accurate. If the locator is off in one direction or the other that could mean spending days pulling up carpeting and jackhammering through rebar just to find out you dug up the wrong room.”

In fact, the accuracy of the RIDGID SeeSnake’s built-in sonde is Pacilla’s favorite feature.

“They have it down to an exact science,” Pacilla says. “You can tell exactly where the tip of the camera is, and exactly how deep.”

He also appreciates the camera’s image quality. A high dynamic range image sensor provides bright and clear in-pipe imaging, even in difficult lighting conditions. That image quality is particularly helpful when trying to explain problems to customers.

“There is no better way to help customers and build trust with them than this camera,” Pacilla says. “The camera builds the trust for you. It pinpoints everything clearly. You don’t really have to ‘sell’ anything at all to customers. You just put the camera in, find the problem, locate it, mark it and let the customer be a part of that process. It takes all the guesswork out of the process.

“On residential calls the camera is the money machine. You’re not going to sell tons of jobs without this equipment. It adds an element to drain cleaning, which is the ‘why.’ Why is a drain having routine problems? If you can answer this question for a customer with facts you will sell jobs. Whether that means lining, bursting, dig-ups, jetting services. It opens up doors that would otherwise be closed.”


On top of the inspection camera’s pure performance, Pacilla says he likes how durable the system has proven to be over the years.

“We have multiple SeeSnakes and all of them have taken some serious abuse,” he says. “Guys slamming them in and out of trucks all day. Into and out of basements. Jamming them into rough, jagged cast iron lines. From 110 degrees down to minus 30 degrees. Rain, ice, heat, snow. Our guys are notoriously rough on equipment and these cameras take an insane amount of abuse, but they all still work like new. I can’t say enough about how tough this equipment is considering how much technology is built into it.

“I am particularly impressed with the RIDGID M40 SeeSnake. It’s our newest camera and it has been a lifesaver. It has a lot of benefits. The tip is smaller and extremely flexible, but the push cable is the same strength and thickness as the larger SeeSnake. It allows us to push the camera through house traps, floor drains, 1 1/2-inch lines — it will push through almost anything. The other main benefit is that it’s all one piece. The monitor and reel are in a tight and light package. The reason this is so great is because whether we want to admit it or not, some customers’ sewer lines don’t get inspected properly because the larger cameras can be cumbersome and heavy to carry up and down flights of narrow basement stairs at the end of a long day. Since the M40 SeeSnake is so light and compact it gets used way more often.”


Another job comes to mind for Pacilla as a time when the SeeSnake really impressed. A local sewer authority was attempting to help a customer locate a sewer tap. The house was so old that there wasn’t a clear map of its plumbing, and the sewer authority’s camera and location equipment wasn’t providing an accurate picture.

“Their camera showed the sewer going out to the front street. When they dug it up there was no sewer line, but a bunch of other utilities,” Pacilla says. “They called us for a second look and the SeeSnake showed the line going out of the back of the house into an alley. Even though the sewer authority said that was impossible, our SeeSnake proved to be within inches of our field marking. We never second-guessed the camera again. That was a game-changer for us.

“When you pound out jobs like this all day, every day you come to realize that you couldn’t do your job properly without this equipment.”  


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